What the Forest Knows

from squirrel carcass
to goshawk turd and back
is like a priest shivering in an empty room

the forest knows more than I ever shall
but it is better to go to town
as a tender ball of bones
than to go alone

Book Review: Soft Science by Franny Choi

I was prepared to hate it / well, hate is a strong word /
let’s just say give it wings and let it sail past the bridge
/ but it doesn’t suck / it doesn’t pretend to get on its knees
and make the rafters sing / it is a red owl on a bicycle with hungry eyes /

   “Who isn’t bruised around the edges, peaches poured
   into the truck bed, receipts faded to white?”

it sends out science mannikins to shout about being nervous in secret /
it collaborates with machines to make rain squalls / it argues for
a better kind of blindness / it warns others about dreaming in stairwells
and at crime scenes / it is a crime scene painted in butterscotch broth /

   “The cop speaks and I call a plum into is his mouth
   and it doesn’t shut him up.

   The cop kneels in the grass below my friends, my friends
   crowned with August and Salt. My marigold my wave.”

tendrils and tips and sprockets combine to give it firm plant awareness /
“cyborg means man made” I didn’t know / it is like new sounds added
to frost in the stubble by the road / in a Wyoming winter snow drifts
come and go like grainy herds of buffalo / this book is like those herds
mated with seigniorage — the profit made from the minting of coins /
ducats in the pillow / francs thrown into the Seine / everything costs
what you are willing to throw away / this book is completely free
in that sense / it is madly lyrical  / and it doesn’t suck

Note: this review is for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club. Soft Science
is forthcoming from Alice James books.

TNT and Waffles

On my way home from class suddenly
   I’m in deep sludge traffic—hey asshole
   your accelerator is the one on the right
   To my left a Redbox movie machine
   like a clown closet holding out things

Beside Starbucks a dentist vomiting in the street
   gives me a chance to sneak run a red light
   The check cashing place is out of 20s
   Who buys cars from a place named TNT Auto Sales

By the diesel generator & family friendly
   Food Mart Stop Here for Signal Sick Motors
   Porsche & Audi repairs & Let’s Dance
   Lotsa Luck cocktails & inflatables
   are northbound for least pressure wave building
   on the depressed grade under a locomotive
   on the overpass like a grandfather clock on it’s back

Classic Pianos and healthcare for everyone
   at the Kozy Hefeweizen Hotcake House
   open 24 hours and hazy as an 86

Jack is in the box by the veterinary hospital
   power parks are made by people you Lucky Devil
   Dry pavement with lights on cranes
   over blue water dark as a wheelchair

In front of me a rack of steel pipe makes the turn
   onto the freeway by the construction site sphincter
   Stationary / no way / One Way / Right Way / that way
   Wrong Way / okay okay that way

The American Cancer Society has no trucks
   Near the river a new blaze of office
   with granite fingers and a large pubic bone
   There is evidence for both God and Washman
   I smell popcorn
   At home a new Michael Dickman poem in the New Yorker
   like sympathetic pliers


“the main shutoff is where now?”

Frrrghrrrgh…GRRGHGH grrzzzZZGggg …frrgggGG….
upstairs SAWING ON PIPES he is

…..whanging on them to make them fit and decent
to hold shit…


uh…this how you want it?”

The Man Who Fished For Children

The girl’s body was stuck under a ledge at the bottom of a plunge pool where the river spun like some mad cyclone bent on boring to the center of the earth. His only tool a long grievous pole, his face set like he was born scowling, it took him a full day to get to her, tie the retrieval ropes and lever her out. The river, gorging on snow melt, fought him like he had no right to the body.

People stood on the rocks and watched, quiet as cormorants. He brought her up, laid her on a sand bar and told everyone to leave. Later, at the parking lot, people tried to offer him money to say thank you. He said no and tied the pole to the side of his truck.

Driving home on the backroads in a Ford 150 that used to be blue, he thought about the frozen knobs of her hands. Tossing in sleep that night,with a bone deep headache, he saw the outhouse at the Methodist church camp he attended when he was a kid. Putting his eye to the chink, a yolk of light coming out, then nothing.

Then his parent’s farm in Estacada. A Berkshire hog with bloodshot eyes standing in a field of stumps. Butchering day. A long skein of intestines. The head with its snout and hairy nostrils set aside for cheese. A steady drip of blood on the dirt. Dogs baying for scraps. Marshlights in the summer darkness.

Eye Motes

His eyes were like branches underwater.

One moment the money is soft, the next it is cyan.

The sea where I stopped and you went on.

Australia is like an angry helmeted man on his back.

Water drains from her daily bath. The sound of dog nails on the floor.

Bring the steeple indoors; make two smaller ones.

Covering the porch, a new reach of the Nooksack River.

A homeless woman by the post office with her monocle.

An iron garden table in the ocean.

On the horse’s forehead, a shillelagh.

I have been writing with such a small part of my mind. I poisoned the ants good.

Antidote for honesty: a necklace made of shoulder bones.

The die back in the garden won’t wait for Easter.

On my desk: a speaker cord like an orphan pig tail, a stapler, some old mints.

A volcano’s worm casting gave us freedom.

A kiss of blind tape where the two ends meet.

I Return to Sea

Propofol is the anaesthesia of choice
For the never in line
Always waving from a red Lamborghini
Trying out their pluck and pervy sides
Naked as gum trees. If there are leftovers
You can budget for a green altar dog
And a few volcanic side and back aches
Moving back and forth like gravel trucks

Before plea bargains and steak tartar there was Zorba
He said welcome hardship. And may God save you
From the stern of a mule or the stem of a priest
Now his jersey hangs up high in the stadium rafters
And people think Kazantzakis played two guard for Memphis

Who rewound the great plains
And planted them with underworld mafia ballers?
Once I knew the joy of them in the off season
Sky and grass like endless billiard felt
I sipped it like cognac
From a divinely dripping breast

The world isn’t afraid of itself
Why be so? Better to eat VoKü in a Berlin squat
Or go with the die Geile to Sisyphos
Where the drinks cost a day’s pay
And hum with electric light foam
And the bartender leans over licks your ear
Asks how you like it
Straight up or with the needle
Pegged all the way over

Squeeze me there — that hurts badly
But at least I can feel it
Are you a two headed mastodon?
Use all four horns then!
Once I lived with a giant Chinese bulldog
In a place where peacocks roamed freely
I suspect they were really Russian Faberge moles
Code talkers buried in the prairie outback
Hatching only when you looked straight at them

Let’s play a game
You ask me if I have a twin
And I’ll ask you what kind cologne you like
When wearing only ankle bracelets
And reading poetry by bomb light
We can worry about photography
After the place closes

Is Stephen Hawking coming over tonight?
Is he bringing a pair of dice?
He knows information does come back
Across the event horizon of a black hole
But it comes in in a kind of creole
Part art, part superstition
Part Andalusian fairy tale
A recipe for writing sonnets
In imaginary numbers
Einstein wanted God to put the dice away
We all know where that got him

Tonight the wind blows in rich and famous
Keeping just enough distance
To water us all in misery—great mountains of water
Enough to drown all the big box churches at altar call
I am running my tongue around the rim of my teeth
Trying to feel my own horizon
Anaesthesia has a very long memory

When the hail starts falling like horse clams
And I feel like stuffing them down someone’s throat
As an Able Bodied Seaman and a jack Buddhist
Looking out through the bones of my desires
I know it is time to return to sea

Welcome to the container ship Blue Ball Horizon
Where we carry two of everything that fits
In a TEU or under starlight
The wages are shit but there is enough to eat
A dry bunk and time to think
We used to take a great circle route across the Atlantic
Now we take a rhumb line or farther south
To avoid the psycho storms
New York to the Med, the Gib
Between Sicily and Malta the traffic is heavy
And the VHF radio is unregulated
Starts talking trash, everybody’s a monkey or a Mario
Or it’s porn soundtracks overdubbed with Celine Dion
Then the Gulf of Aden where the pirates have RPGs and cell phones
Then down to Singapore where they love their malls
May God bless the good women at Four Floors
And keep them from the rising waters!
Then to Sri Lanka for tea and crew and zen
And back to New York to do it all over again
Poetry is my drug of choice when it’s too rough to paint
Or we are out of the good stuff
If Mae West were here you could relieve her of duty
You should come over some time

Notes: VoKü means the people’s food, die Geile are people who are very horny, and a TEU is a twenty foot equivalent unit